A while back a nice lady sent me an email asking me to write a a blog post on how I handled the difficulties of watching my children leave home and my thoughts on the empty nest topic. At this point I’m not an empty nest yet, but I see it quickly approaching. After raising 8 children the thoughts of soon being down to the last 2 at home makes the empty nest much more of a reality. In this post I’m sharing my thoughts on this subject.
I was 18 when I had my first child and 33 (almost 34) when I had my 8th and last child. I have loved having a big family. I’ve spent my life devoted to raising them, caring for them and educating them. In the years that all of them were at home the thoughts of them someday growing up, beginning their own lives and moving away from home, honestly never occurred to me. I felt like the life I was living would go on forever; which was ok with me. I enjoyed it. Then my oldest son moved out. He had a job in the city and was going to college full time and he moved in with his grandfather to be closer to work and school. I cried myself to sleep that first night that he left. Then the reality hit me. Someday this will come to an end. All the children will grow up, move out and move on. It was a sad sobering thought to me.
Another reality hit me soon after this. As I was thinking, contemplating and praying about my son leaving home and in the years to follow the rest of my children leaving home, I realized something more important. This is exactly what I am raising them for. I am raising them to become their own people. Not my emotional crutch. Not my emotional stability. Not my emotional fulfillment. I am raising them to become independent, capable, God fearing, Jesus loving, people that can care for themselves, their families and step out in this world as prepared as much as I am able to prepare them.
One by one my children have begun to move out and move on with their own lives. It is always a little sad for me when they move on. But, I’m not sad for long knowing that they are stepping out in this world and fulfilling their own desires and purpose. I soon look at them and feel blessed to see adults that are productive, happy, achieving their goals and God given purpose in life.
This year I started out with 5 children still at home. Emily had come home after her year in Denmark working as an au pair and Jacob had lived with Hannah and her family for a short time while he was working full time in the city and not wanting the very long commute that living at home would have been. But the job ended for him and he moved back home. My house was full again. Then Emily got a job that was an hour and half away and moved closer to her work, Jacob began community college and working 4 to 5 nights a week and once again moved in with Hannah & her family to save on commute time and gas. Now Leanne will be leaving in less than a month for South Korea. As it stands at this point I will be down to my last 2 children living at home.
I have to admit that after 30 years of mothering/parenting I’m actually a little excited about what life with a small family looks and feels like and the prospect of being an empty nest in a few short years. You see, long ago I realized that I am my own person and not completely defined by my children but defined by many things. I think the empty nest issues result when we feel like we are only defined by our children and our role in raising them. Part of who I am is a mother and one who has dedicated her life to them, but there is so much more to see and experience. There are things I’ve wanted to do but not had the time to do, volunteer work I would love to do but not have had the time, home business ideas I would like to explore but have had no time, writing I’ve wanted to do but not had the time. You see the “me” that I know is proud to be a mom but also knows there is more to me as well.
That is not to say I am in any hurry to see my children leave. Not at all, I am excited to spend one on one time with the youngest children. Sometimes in a big family the last are the ones that receive the least attention because as the older ones grow they seem to require so much to help them launch and begin their own lives. Now I have the time to invest more into them and this excites me. But I know that the same I’ve seen with the others will happen with them… they will move out and move on. And that is the way it should be!
Another part of who I am is a wife. During 30 years of raising children it’s easy to forget that my husband and I were a couple before we had children. We look forward to the years of freedom to be “us” again. I’ve seen many couples let their marriage take a back seat to raising a family. My husband and I have made a point over the years to nurture our relationship. We knew it was important to care for and invest in. We did not want to wake up after 35 years of raising children and look at each other and have no idea who “we” were any more. Part of becoming and empty nest for us has meant more time spent together and more time invested in our relationship and that has been such a sweet reward.
Life seems to be about seasons. There is a season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven). There is a season to meet and marry the man you love, a season to have a family, a season to raise them and a season to let them go… and a season to embrace and enjoy what God has still for you to do. We all want purpose in life. And certainly having children and raising a family is an incredible purpose. As that season begins to change then it is good to know that the Lord has another purpose for us. Another season for us to walk into. Just like the seasons of the year we walk from summer into fall and it is different, but it is still full of beauty, joy and excitement if we allow the Lord to guide the way.